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  • Writer's pictureDr. Luisa Bryce

A baby can’t be named Messiah: The significance of a name

As I was browsing NBC this morning, I came across an interesting headline: “Baby can’t be named ‘Messiah,’ judge rules.” The story discusses how a Tennessee mother and father appear for a court date due to disagreement about their son’s surname. The judge assigned to the case, Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew, ruled that the child, whose first name was “Messiah” should be changed to “Martin.” Apparently Ballew stated, “The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ.”

In my profession, I encounter people from all walks of life. From the devote Christian to the strict atheist, I have been trained in how to effectively treat people for mental health issues regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Is it challenging? Absolutely. Psychologists sometimes have to work extremely hard to remain nonjudgmental. We get all sorts of consultation on this, and we’re encouraged to seek out our own treatment in order to work through biases we may hold. Not to say everyone isn’t entitled to their own morals and beliefs. Sometimes the “fit” between client and therapist isn’t great, and then it’s time to refer out to a different therapist who can offer more effective treatment.

As a psychologist, I am trained in how to see the “dialectic,” of conflict. Dialectic is defined by Merriam-Webster as the “opposition between two interacting forces or elements.” So I see both sides of the argument on naming one’s child “Messiah.” On one hand, I can see how a person who lives his or her life according to Jesus Christ would take offense to another individual naming his or her child “Messiah.” On the flip side, I can see how others believe it is every parent’s right to name his or her child as he or she chooses. And some parents do love their child to the extent that they believe their kiddo is “God’s greatest gift.” And who’s to judge them? All children are deserving of unconditional love. What’s more, many Hispanic Christians name their children “Jesús,” and I’ve never heard of a court case about this. Just some food for thought.

That being said, there is undoubtedly significance in a name. Some even say our name is our destiny. According to psychologist Dr. Martin Ford of George Mason University, names clearly  have influence, but saying a name is our “destiny” may be too extreme. Dr. Ford quotes, “Names only have a significant influence when that is the only thing you know about the person.” He says adding factors such as ability, personality, and motivation cause the significance of name to dramatically decrease. So Harmony At Home wants to know, what do you think?

We would LOVE to hear from YOU! Please comment about your thoughts on the “Messiah” case, the significance of a name, or just share your opinion. That being said, please be appropriate, as this is a G-rated blog. Many of the comments at the end of the “Messiah” news article were rather crass.

For more information on the significance of a name check out “How a name influences our destinies.” To find out what your name means or the significance your child’s name may have, go to Kids’ Turn Central.

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